Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spice Cake and Caramel Frosting for Birthdays

Will's birthday cake
I've been asked several times for the Spice Cake recipe I use for my favorite cake - My favorite birthday cake since I was a kid. I've been making it for years from The Joy of Cooking cookbook. But, as usual, I don't do the exact recipe...

First off, I have to say, I am not a cake person. I've never loved cakes for dessert, preferring pies, cheesecakes, and now Tiramisu. Also, I rarely eat desserts. I have to choose the types of carbs I consume carefully. I'm pretty good at avoiding store bought desserts and processed flour products. Since the only place my body can grow is out, when I take in foods, they are nutrient rich, phytonutrient rich choices. I even have to limit my homemade breads.

So when it comes to foods with flour, I make everything from home-ground grains. That way I know they are nutrient rich and at their optimal. So I've made all my pie crusts, cookies, and cakes from ground whole grains. For this recipe I use either pastry berries or white wheat, not the red winter wheat berries.

When I look at cakes, all cakes made from cake mixes have a plasticky sheen to them. Maybe my baked goods aren't as light and fluffy, but that's what's been built into our likes from the era when processed flour was introduced as a 'rich mans' food, just like processed white sugar was coveted in the same way.

In the Joy of Cooking, it's the Velvet Spice Cake
but here's my version:

I start by beating
4 lg egg whites 
1/8 tsp cream of tartar, till soft peaks form and gradually add in
1/4 c sugar, till peaks stiffer, but not dry.
I scrape this mixture into another bowl to add in at the end.

Next I beat 
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 Tb) in my Bosch mixer bowl, with the butter (usually unsalted if I have it) sliced in pieces so the whips don't get bent. And add in
1 1/4 c sugar
Beat in 4 lg egg yolks
Adding in the dry ingredients:
2 1/4 c whole grain flour (and I never sift either)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I do have a cute nutmeg grinder)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grd cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Fold in beaten egg whites.
(The eggs can be done whole, without mixing them separate if you don't mind the cake being denser.)

Pour into greased and floured tube or bundt pan, and it works in a 9x13, or round layered cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes (probably less for round cake pans) or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool about 10 minutes to invert the cake out of the pan (or just leave it in the 9x13 if you want).

I've loved the flavor of spiced cake with caramel or maple frosting since I was a kid. My mom always made it for me for my birthday, but from boxes and cans. I carried on that tradition, making it for me from scratch for my birthday since I got married.

It's considered a Boiled or Cooked Frosting, and I've been making it from the Joy of Cooking cookbook all these years. But when we moved to 8000 feet elevation in Colorado from Tucson, Arizona, the recipe did not work and I had to do a lot of reading and figuring.

Old-Fashioned Caramel Frosting
In a medium saucepan heat and stir until sugar is dissolved:
2 c packed brown sugar
1 c heavy cream (or 1/2 C butter plus 1/2 C milk)
Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Spoon down any sugar on the sides of the pan and cook uncovered, hardly stirring, until the syrup reaches 238 degrees. Add:
3 Tb butter
Remove from heat and cool to 110 degrees, then stir in:
1 tsp vanilla.

The 238 degrees is where I had to change the recipe (and it has an optional addition of rum flavoring which I don't like). It was in the Joy of Cooking's "Know Your Ingredients" chapter, and maybe under making candy, and maybe even canning, that I figured it out. Cooking and canning temperatures and timings are set for sea level. At 8000 ft I had to lower the temperature 16 degrees (At my elevation, boiling water temp is at 186, which means 20 minutes of waterbath canning time stretches out to 46 minutes!) When making candy, that soft-ball stage at 238 has to lower 1 degree per every 500 feet above sea level.

Once the frosting is cooled and vanilla added you beat it with a hand mixer in the pan (or transfer it to a mixing bowl) till it gets thick and creamy. If too thick you can beat in some cream a tablespoon at a time till spreadable.

The recipe actually makes more frosting than the cake needs, but my kids always wanted the extra to add to their cake slices or spread on ginger cookies or graham crackers. Yummm ....

In Ogema, Wisconsin, Monte's Aunt Ruby makes this cake and frosting. She always brings it to events and I recognize it and we talk about it. She says it's everybody's favorite. Aunt Ruby is the only other person I know who makes it. She raised her family on a dairy farm, so you know her cream had to be the BEST ever! 
Just a side note: The Joy of Cooking has changed over the years and I don't know what's still in the newer versions. I heard it talked of on a program - mainly editing out some of the details and maybe ingredients or recipes that people today don't stock. Hopefully it's still making everything from scratch.


Kerry said...

This cake sounds wonderful! Why haven't you ever made it when I've been around?! :) I wish you had a picture of it so that I could post it on Pinterest. I may just have to try this recipe. I love spice cake!

Karey said...

I looked thru my pics and realized I've not made the cake in several years. I have my cookbook out because Heather had called for verifying which cake and frosting recipe I used. She has a newer "Joy of Cooking" and the frosting was changed a bit, but still there. What I found was a picture they sent of Will's birthday cake recently.

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